Meet the Samurai who has got only one code which is to save the world by providing life-saving technology solutions so as to make the most out of your tech.
The Internet Superhero
Browsing on the internet is like visiting the forest. It is a place where you can find juicy, nutritious fruit and beautiful springs and animals. However, you can also find snakes, poisonous mushrooms and get in really creepy places. For most cases, the creepy, dangerous places on the internet is found in the Dark web. The dark web is infamously known for facilitating illegal activities such as drug trafficking, hiring of hit-men and underage pornography. These sites are normally operated by IT pros. These gurus operate them under pseudonyms and whom the authorities find it hard to track down. But how do these sites work and why are they so different to the rest of the sites we see? To understand more about such sites, it is better to first understand the evolution of the dark web.
There is a great volume of information held within the internet. The mechanism by which users add or retrieve information from them is very straightforward. Users key in a string of words or a link on a standard search engine. The search engine retrieves any information which matches the search according to their index. Information which is indexed and can be retrieved by these engines collectively make up the Surface Web.
Most of the internet, however, is not accessible to the public. It entails sensitive information such as government and military data, and it makes up around 96% of the internet data. Collectively, this part of the internet is called the Deep Web.
Dark web is a small part of what makes the deep web. It is a section of the internet which is infamous for being utilized for illegal activity, especially the trafficking of drugs and arms. The dark web maintains its untracked status using various technologies. Dynamic pages, for instance, require specific querying to access, rendering them anonymous to those without the correct forms. The pages are standalone and are not linked to any other information within the internet. The lack of HTML based content further enhances the anonymity, alongside the use of special software such as Tor and l2P.
Evolution of the dark web traces back to the birth of the internet at DARPA, where a connection between two computers is first made. Within a few years since that connection, secretive networks had begun forming alongside what was then DARPANET. These secretive networks eventually get termed “darknets”. By the early 1990s, the internet had a standardized protocol suite. This was accompanied by plummeting storage costs due to improved file compression technologies. The improved software subsequently led to a burst of illegal activities via the internet, and the free distribution of copyrighted content was on the rise.
The year 2000 saw the emergence of software such as Ian Clarke’s Freenet which provides an anonymous gateway to the dark web. HavenCo, created by Ryan Lackey and Sean Hastings, was another popular software which hosted restricted data but tumbled later on. 2002 was an important year in the evolution of the dark web which saw the emergence of the dark web as we know of today. “The Onion Router” (Tor) was created by the U.S. Naval Research Lab. It was created to protect American Ops communications in countries where they had been assigned. Dark web users, however, took advantage of this new network. As a result, almost all the dark web activities run on it. By 2005, it was estimated that there were up to 10,000 dark web users. This was accompanied with over half a million video productions being distributed each day.
2009 was another important milestone for the evolution of the dark web. It saw the introduction of untraceable cryptocurrency by an anonymous entity that called itself Satoshi Nakamoto. The currency, now known as Bitcoin, runs on a public ledger which is robust and eliminated the problem of double spending by users. Bitcoin was quickly adapted by users of the dark web because of its untraceable characteristic. Money laundering and illegal business transactions became easier to accomplish. With this new currency in place, the dark web continued to expand to host hundreds of thousands of websites. Half of these were extremist websites and over three-hundred terrorist websites. Moreover, these sites were mostly funded by the illegal sale of pirated digital material.
With the increased criminal activity taking place within the dark web, various authorities began to take action and attempted to put an end to some activities. The first breakthrough was from the Irish administration in August 2013, when they raided an apartment belonging to Eric Eoin Marques in Dublin, a man believed to be the largest facilitator of child pornography in the whole of the dark web. Around the same time, communications between the chief of Al-Qaeda al-Zawahiri and the head of Yemeni-based al-Qaeda Nasir al-Wuhayshi were intercepted by the U.S. government, leading to a shuttering of over 21 U.S. embassies based on Muslim soil.
In October the same year, Silk Road, the then largest marketplace for drugs in the dark web, was shut down by the U.S. government and its owner arrested. Several other take downs have occurred since then. Hackers, national and international law enforcement bodies revealed that access to information about these websites was acquired through exploration of vulnerabilities within user interface software such as web browsers.
Rapid advancement in technology is making it both increasingly easy to access the dark web. It is also making it increasingly easy for authorities to take down sites associated with illegal activities. Technologies such as virtual port networks are being used to strengthen anonymity in the dark web. Current marketplaces on the dark web such as Ground Zero are using trust test technologies to verify new users. Trust tests work by requesting a hacker to target a specific site. The hackers are then required acquire the credentials of the site administrator. These details are then sent to the Ground Zero administrator. Access is granted once the information sent has been verified.
With the number of major take downs that have occurred in the past five years, marketplaces seem to be regrouping and implementing technical trial and error techniques. This is so that they can find the most untraceable way of running businesses online. With the amount of funding being generated through piracy, dark web markets are sure to employ more robust measures into protecting and expanding their territories.